Tuesday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

I’m having trouble getting going this today. I looked around at the latest news, and I started to feel exhausted. But I’m resisting sinking into that feeling. I have to believe there is some way for us as a country to recover from the Trump poison. At least we got some good news yesterday when Biden signed the bipartisan infrastructure bill and Pelosi announced that the House could vote on the Build Back Better bill this week.

Now Democrats will need to convince voters how great these accomplishments are.

Today’s news is filled with revelations from the book “Betrayal,” by Jonathan Karl, released today. In her review of the book in The New York Times, Jennifer Szalai focuses on Karl’s (along with other journalists) apparent blindness about who and what Trump was: In Another Trump Book, a Journalist’s Belated Awareness Steals the Show.

…[I]n his new book, “Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show,” Karl comes across as almost poignantly ingenuous and polite to a fault, repeatedly flummoxed by what he saw in the last year of the Trump administration. “Front Row,” which had the unfortunate timing of being published in March 2020, before the consequences of Trump’s governance were fully laid bare, began with a solemn tribute to “objectivity and balance” and a complaint that “the mainstream media coverage of Donald Trump is relentlessly and exhaustively negative.” Just a year-and-a-half later, after 750,000 American Covid deaths and an attack on the Capitol, Karl allows that the “Trump show” may have in fact been more sinister than mere theatrics after all.

“I have never wavered from my belief that journalists are not the opposition party and should not act like we are,” Karl maintains in “Betrayal.” “But the first obligation of a journalist is to pursue truth and accuracy. And the simple truth about the last year of the Trump presidency is that his lies turned deadly and shook the foundations of our democracy.”

betrayal_custom-0037268a13650458ab0f192a4334147bd01a8a50-s1100-c50According to Szalai, Karl repeated writes in the book that he is shocked by Trump’s behavior. From a description of Karl’s face-to-face interview with Trump:

During the…interview, Trump reminisced about the speech he gave on Jan. 6, 2021, shortly before the attack on the Capitol, calling it “a very beautiful time with extremely loving and friendly people.” Karl, at least inwardly, was aghast. “I was taken aback by how fondly he remembers a day I will always remember as one of the darkest I have ever witnessed,” he writes, adding that Trump seemed to justify the death threats made against his own vice president. “It boggled my mind,” Karl says.

It did? The author’s expressions of surprise are so frequent and over-the-top that they are perhaps the most surprising parts of this book. “Betrayal” is less insightful about the Trump White House and more revealing of Karl’s own gradual, extremely belated awareness that something in the White House might in fact be awry. Events strike him as “wacky,” “crazy,” “nuts.” He delves into the outlandish conspiracy theories around the presidential election, earnestly explaining why each of them is wrong. He scores a number of on-the-record interviews with Trumpworld insiders — nearly all of whom insist that even as they publicly sided with Trump, they were bravely telling the president some very tough truths in private.

This is so typical of what we saw from journalists during the Trump years. They repeatedly tried to normalize Trump’s behavior and some are still doing it. But Trump showed us who again and again before he ran for president and especially during the 2016 campaign. Yet Karl was still shocked by what Trump said in the interview–even after he (Trump) refused to concede the election and led a serious coup attempt. 

More revelations from the book:

ABC News: Trump allies pressed Defense Department to help overturn election, new book says.

In “Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show,” scheduled to be released today, Karl reports that former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump attorney Sidney Powell tried to enlist a Pentagon official to help overturn the election.

According to the book, Flynn — who had just received an unconditional pardon from President Trump after pleading guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI during the Russia probe — made a frantic phone call to a senior Trump intelligence official named Ezra Cohen (sometimes referred to as Ezra Cohen-Watnick), who previously worked under Flynn at both the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the National Security Council.

“Where are you?” Flynn asked the DoD official, who said he was traveling in the Middle East.

“Flynn told him to cut his trip short and get back to the United States immediately because there were big things about to happen,” according to the book. Karl writes that Flynn told Cohen, “We need you,” and told the DoD official that “there was going to be an epic showdown over the election results.”

Flynn, according to the book, urged Cohen that “he needed to get orders signed, that ballots needed to be seized, and that extraordinary measures needed to be taken to stop Democrats from stealing the election.”

“As Flynn ranted about the election fight, [Cohen] felt his old boss sounded manic,” Karl writes in the book. “He didn’t sound like the same guy he had worked for.”

EjVHE6iWkAA6eLiIt gets even crazier.

“Betrayal” also reports that Sydney Powell, Flynn’s former lawyer who was then advising President Trump, called Cohen shortly after the Flynn conversation and tried to enlist his help with one the most far-fetched claims about the election, involving then-CIA Director Gina Haspel.

“Gina Haspel has been hurt and taken into custody in Germany,” Powell told Cohen, pushing a false conspiracy theory that had been gaining steam among QAnon followers, according to the book. “You need to launch a special operations mission to get her,” Powell said.

Powell, according to the book, was pushing the outlandish claim that Haspel had been injured while on a secret CIA operation to seize an election-related computer server that belonged to a company named Scytl — none of which was true.

“The server, Powell claimed, contained evidence that hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of votes had been switched using rigged voting machines. Powell believed Haspel had embarked on this secret mission to get the server and destroy the evidence — in other words, the CIA director was part of the conspiracy,” Karl writes.

Powell wanted the Defense Department to send a special operations team over to Germany immediately: “They needed to get the server and force Haspel to confess,” Karl writes.

All of this was too crazy even for Trump loyalist Cohen, yet these are the people Trump was listening to after the election.

Hayes Brown at MSNBC: Jenna Ellis’ memo on stealing the 2020 election holds a lesson for Democrats.

After losing the 2020 presidential election, former President Donald Trump was obsessed with finding a route to remain in power. In September, we learned that John Eastman, a conservative lawyer working with Trump’s legal team, went so far as to write a two-page memo for how to throw out President Joe Biden’s win before Congress could certify it in January.

And in the last week, we’ve learned that Eastman wasn’t alone in taking notes on a criminal conspiracy. At least two other people prepared memos to justify Trump’s reinstallation as president. This collection of memos shows more clearly than ever that those closest to the former president were dedicated to finding some loophole to keep him in power. Their mentally thin, ultimately self-serving assertions acted as fuel to Trump’s delusions, which he then passed on to his followers — most spectacularly, of course, at his rally ahead of the riot on Jan. 6….

200515141458-01-jenna-ellis-donald-trump-exlarge-169

Jenna Ellis with Trump

ABC News first reported Sunday that White House chief of staff Mark Meadows emailed Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff on Dec. 31 to pass on a memo from Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis. Ellis — whom you may recall from her many failed attempts to reverse the election in court — “outlined a multi-step strategy,” according to Karl:

On Jan. 6, the day Congress was to certify the 2020 election results, Pence was to send back the electoral votes from six battleground states that Trump falsely claimed he had won.

The memo said that Pence would give the states a deadline of “7pm eastern standard time on January 15th” to send back a new set of votes, according to Karl.

Then, Ellis wrote, if any state legislature missed that deadline, “no electoral votes can be opened and counted from that state.”

That scheme aligns with one of the scenarios that Eastman laid out in his longer Jan. 3 memo. And at first glance it seems like a valid off-ramp that would let Trump save face and allow time to investigate the “fraud” that he had alleged. It’s not dissimilar in that sense from the arguments that Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Josh Hawley, R-Mo., made in their refusal to vote to certify the election.

Crucially, though, the plan’s real goal depended on another plot that was underway inside the Trump administration. The Justice Department was under pressure in the weeks after the election to issue a letter to the states Trump falsely claimed to have won declaring that there was enough “significant concern” of fraud to warrant special sessions of their legislatures. Those legislatures controlled by the GOP — like Georgia’s and Arizona’s — would then provide the electoral votes needed to put Trump over the top under Ellis’ proposal.

Here’s the promised warning for Democrats:

Whether we like it or not, there are numerous loopholes and vagaries in our method of choosing a president. None of them have been remedied since 2020. And there are now multiple examples for the next would-be coup leader to draw from when exploiting the flaws inherent in the electoral system. If anything, Republican-controlled states have been moving to codify those flaws for their own benefit, making it easier for legislatures to overturn the will of the people.

Jonathan Karl

Jonathan Karl

I’ll end with this from EconoTimes: Capitol insurrection: Carl Bernstein says infamous memos are ‘blueprints’ of a coup.

According to Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein, the infamous memos drafted for Mike Pence to overturn the election results is a blueprint of a coup.

Bernstein weighed in on a recording of Trump and ABC journalist Jonathan Karl’s conversation, where the former president did not deny that he told Pence that if he does not overturn the 2020 election results, he is a “p***y.” The Watergate reporter said that there is more to the former president’s comments and touched on the memos drafted by lawyers John Eastman and Jenna Ellis. The memos detailed how Pence could overturn the 2020 elections, which Pence ultimately refused to do.

“I think what we’re seeing in these memos particularly are blueprints for a coup,” said Bernstein. “The actual blueprints in document form in which the president of the United States, through his chief of staff, is sending to Mike Pence’s, the vice president’s staff, a blueprint to overturn an election, a blueprint for a conspiracy led by a president of the United States to result in an authoritarian coup in which the election is stolen.”

Bernstein added that there is nothing that comes close to what happened in the 2020 elections and that it is all documented in writing. The Watergate reporter noted that more records are needed to determine what the former president said and did, especially on January 5 and January 6. Bernstein added that the House Committee must act fast to find the answers in case the GOP regains the majority in the House in 2022.

That’s it for me today. It is all so exhausting. But we have to hold onto hope somehow, don’t we? Please let me know your thoughts on this or any topic in the comment thread.

 


Lazy Caturday Reads

Reading Sociology, by Kurt Solmssen

Reading Sociology, by Kurt Solmssen

Good Morning!!

I know this isn’t breaking news to any Sky Dancers, but it’s still the best news in a long time. Steve Bannon has been indicted for contempt of Congress. More good news: it appears that Merrick Garland actually is taking the insurrection seriously. From the DOJ statement issued yesterday:

Stephen K. Bannon was indicted today by a federal grand jury on two counts of contempt of Congress stemming from his failure to comply with a subpoena issued by the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol.

Bannon, 67, is charged with one contempt count involving his refusal to appear for a deposition and another involving his refusal to produce documents, despite a subpoena from the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol. An arraignment date has not yet been set in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

“Since my first day in office, I have promised Justice Department employees that together we would show the American people by word and deed that the department adheres to the rule of law, follows the facts and the law and pursues equal justice under the law,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “Today’s charges reflect the department’s steadfast commitment to these principles.”

Katie Benner and Luke Broadwater at The New York Times: Bannon Indicted on Contempt Charges Over House’s Capitol Riot Inquiry.

A Justice Department spokesman said Mr. Bannon was expected to turn himself in to authorities on Monday, and make his first appearance in Federal District Court in Washington later that day.

A lawyer for Mr. Bannon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The politically and legally complex case was widely seen as a litmus test for whether the Justice Department would take an aggressive stance against one of Mr. Trump’s top allies as the House seeks to develop a fuller picture of the actions of the former president and his aides and advisers before and during the attack on the Capitol.

At a time of deep political polarization, the Biden Justice Department now finds itself prosecuting a top adviser to the previous president of another party in relation to an extraordinary attack by Mr. Trump’s supporters on a fundamental element of democracy, the peaceful transfer of power….

After the referral from the House in Mr. Bannon’s case, F.B.I. agents in the Washington field office investigated the matter. Career prosecutors in the public integrity unit of the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington determined that it would be appropriate to charge Mr. Bannon with two counts of contempt, and a person familiar with the deliberations said they received the full support of Attorney General Merrick B. Garland.

White cat at an open window’, 1855 - Jacobus van Looy

White cat at an open window’, 1855 – Jacobus van Looy

The indictment of Bannon serves as a warning to other Trump goons who have refused to testify before the House January 6 committee.

The charges against Mr. Bannon come as the committee is considering criminal contempt referrals against two other allies of Mr. Trump who have refused to comply with its subpoenas: Mr. Meadows and Jeffrey Clark, a Justice Department official who participated in Mr. Trump’s effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

“Steve Bannon’s indictment should send a clear message to anyone who thinks they can ignore the select committee or try to stonewall our investigation: No one is above the law,” the leaders of the panel, Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi, and Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming, said in a statement. “We will not hesitate to use the tools at our disposal to get the information we need.”

Earlier they had released another blistering statement after Mr. Meadows failed to appear to answer questions at a scheduled deposition. Mr. Meadows’s lawyer, George J. Terwilliger III, informed the committee that his client felt “duty bound” to follow Mr. Trump’s instructions to defy the committee, citing executive privilege.

“Mr. Meadows’s actions today — choosing to defy the law — will force the select committee to consider pursuing contempt or other proceedings to enforce the subpoena,” Mr. Thompson and Ms. Cheney said.

They said Mr. Meadows refused to answer even basic questions, such as whether he was using a private cellphone to communicate on Jan. 6, and the location of his text messages from that day.

Aaron Blake at The Washington Post: The big warning signal Stephen Bannon’s indictment sends.

For more than two years, the Democratic-controlled House struggled to obtain crucial testimony from Trump White House counsel Donald McGahn in its Russia investigation. When he declined to submit to a subpoena, they fought it out in court. By the time an agreement was reached for McGahn to testify this year, Donald Trump was no longer in the White House, and the Russia issue had faded in both import and memories. McGahn said frequently in his testimony that he no longer fully recalled important episodes….

This time, though, the House and its select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob took a very different tack. And it resulted in both a legally and practically significant result.

Rather than try to get a court to make former White House adviser Stephen K. Bannon testify, the Jan. 6 committee instead moved quickly to recommend he be held in contempt of Congress. That put the decision into the hands of the Justice Department, which would need to decide whether to file criminal charges. But it would at least be quicker.

On Friday, this approach — an extraordinary gambit necessitated by an extraordinary effort to stymie investigators for most of the past five years — led to an extraordinary outcome: Bannon has been indicted by a federal grand jury, making him the first person charged with contempt of Congress since 1983.

Black cat on the front porch, by Bonnie Mason

Black cat on the front porch, by Bonnie Mason

While an indictment is significant — it’s actually the second time Bannon has been indicted in fewer than 15 months, with the first earning a preemptive Trump pardon — the move is less punitive than it is precedent-setting.

Other witnesses, including former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who are also resisting cooperation with the inquiry, now have to contend with the prospect of potential criminal charges….an indictment is a bell that can’t be un-rung. Those like Meadows might defy the subpoenas in the hope of some kind of accommodation — perhaps allowing them to withhold a certain part of their testimony or documents that have been requested. Bannon’s indictment serves notice that the Jan. 6 committee can threaten to play hardball, with plenty to back it up….

Bannon and Meadows are among the first against whom this could even be deployed. Theirs were among the first batch of subpoenas, along with White House communications aide Dan Scavino and national security aide Kashyap Patel. In other words, plenty of others will now have very important decisions to make. Another big one will be Trump DOJ official Jeffrey Clark, who spearheaded the effort to get his department to legitimize Trump’s false stolen-election claims.

Down in Georgia, Fulton County DA may be gearing up to impanel a Grand Jury to investigate Donald Trump for his efforts to overturn election results in the state. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Fulton DA mulling rarely used special grand jury for Trump probe.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is likely to impanel a special grand jury to support her probe of former President Donald Trump, a move that could aid prosecutors in what’s expected to be a complicated and drawn-out investigative process.

A person with direct knowledge of the discussions confirmed the development to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, saying the move could be imminent.

Some legal observers viewed the news, first reported by the New York Times, as a sign that the probe is entering a new phase.

“My interpretation is that she’s gotten as far as she can interviewing witnesses and dealing with people who are cooperating by producing documents voluntarily,” former Gwinnett County DA Danny Porter said of Willis. “She needs the muscle. She needs the subpoena power.”

Deborah Dewit, Birdwatching

Deborah Dewit, Birdwatching

Special grand juries are rarely used but could be a valuable tool for Willis as she takes the unprecedented step of investigating the conduct of a former president while he was in office.

Her probe, launched in February, is centered on the Jan. 2 phone call Trump placed to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which he urged the Republican to “find” the votes to reverse Joe Biden’s win in Georgia last November. The veteran prosecutor previously told Gov. Brian Kemp, Raffensperger and other state officials that her office would be probing potential violations of Georgia law prohibiting criminal solicitation to commit election fraud, intentional interference with the performance of election duties, conspiracy and racketeering, among others.

The investigation could also include Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, who promoted lies about election fraud in a state legislative hearing; and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who was accused by Raffensperger of urging him to toss mail-in ballots in certain counties. Both men have denied wrongdoing.

In other news, another Congressional committee is investigating efforts by the Trump administration to downplay the coronavirus pandemic. The Washington Post: Messonnier, Birx detail political interference in last year’s coronavirus response.

The Trump administration repeatedly interfered with efforts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year to issue warnings and guidance about the evolving coronavirus pandemic, six current and former health officials told congressional investigators in recent interviews.

One of those officials, former CDC senior health expert Nancy Messonnier, warned in a Feb. 25, 2020, news briefing that the virus’s spread in the United States was inevitable — a statement that prompted anger from President Donald Trump and led to the agency’s media appearances being curtailed, according to interview excerpts and other documents released Friday by the House select subcommittee on the pandemic.

The new information, including statements from former White House coronavirus coordinator Deborah Birx, confirms prior reporting and offers additional detail on how the pandemic response unfolded at the highest levels of government.

“Our intention was certainly to get the public’s attention about the likelihood … that it was going to spread and that we thought that there was a high risk that it would be disruptive,” Messonnier told the panel in an Oct. 8 interview. But her public warning led to private reprimands, including from then-Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, she said….

Anne Schuchat, who served as the CDC’s No. 2 official before retiring this year, also depicted chaotic efforts to control the government’s messages in those early months, telling the panel that Trump officials scrambled to schedule a briefing several hours after Messonnier’s public warning, even though “there was nothing new to report.”

Cat's Siesta, Ksenia Yarovaya

Cat’s Siesta, Ksenia Yarovaya

Schuchat joined Trump and other officials for a briefing the very next day,where Trump insisted that the pandemic’s spreadto the United States was not “inevitable,” even as Schuchat tried to warn Americans to prepare for “more cases.” [….]

Other officials detailed why the CDC held no news briefings between March 9 and May 29, 2020, in the earliest days of the pandemic, effectively muzzling the scientific agency as the coronavirus spread rapidly across the United States.

Kate Galatas, a senior CDC communications official, told the panel that the White House repeatedly blocked the agency’s media requests, including a planned April 2020 briefing that she said would have addressed the importance of wearing face coverings to contain the virus’s spread.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

I’ll end with this article at The New York Times addresses the alarming number of violent threats against public figures we are seeing in U.S.: Menace Enters the Republican Mainstream.

At a conservative rally in western Idaho last month, a young man stepped up to a microphone to ask when he could start killing Democrats.

“When do we get to use the guns?” he said as the audience applauded. “How many elections are they going to steal before we kill these people?” The local state representative, a Republican, later called it a “fair” question.

In Ohio, the leading candidate in the Republican primary for Senate blasted out a video urging Republicans to resist the “tyranny” of a federal government that pushed them to wear masks and take F.D.A.-authorized vaccines.

“When the Gestapo show up at your front door,” the candidate, Josh Mandel, a grandson of Holocaust survivors, said in the video in September, “you know what to do.”

And in Congress, violent threats against lawmakers are on track to double this year. Republicans who break party ranks and defy former President Donald J. Trump have come to expect insults, invective and death threats — often stoked by their own colleagues and conservative activists, who have denounced them as traitors.

From congressional offices to community meeting rooms, threats of violence are becoming commonplace among a significant segment of the Republican Party. Ten months after rioters attacked the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, and after four years of a president who often spoke in violent terms about his adversaries, right-wing Republicans are talking more openly and frequently about the use of force as justifiable in opposition to those who dislodged him from power.

Click the link to read the rest.

What do you think? What stories are you following today?


Tuesday Reads: It Can Happen Here

Good Morning!!

Today is the anniversary of Kristallnacht.

John Farmer at The Jerusalem Post: Kristallnacht and today’s extremist violence – opinion.

Synagogues, shops, homes were vandalized and burned in the thousands.  Over ninety Jews were murdered, countless others beaten. Some 20,000 Jews were seized and sent to the concentration camps at Dachau, Buchenwald, and Sachsenhausen. Several hundred died at the hands of the guards.

It may have appeared a spontaneous, chaotic, unplanned riot.  In the smokescreen of chaos and violence, it was easy to miss the careful underlying planning.

Earlier that day, orders were issued to the German Police and Fire Brigades by Reinhard Heidrich that spelled out in specific detail the rules of engagement.  No violent acts could be carried out that threatened German lives or property; stores and residences of Jews could be “destroyed but not looted”; non-Jewish businesses were to be “completely secured against damage”; demonstrations “which are in progress should not be prevented by the police but only supervised.”  In Frankfurt, the commander of the 50th brigade passed on the order, noting that “all the Jewish synagogues within the 50th Brigade are to be blown up or set on fire immediately.  Neighboring houses occupied by Aryans are not to be damaged. The action is to be carried out in civilian clothes.”

Kristallnacht’s significance as an inflection point in the campaign to destroy the Jewish population is undeniable.   As David Frum has put it, “Through the end of 1937, it remained possible to hope that the Nazi persecution might still respect some last limits of humanity. …”  On Kristallnacht, “the last of those illusions was smashed like broken glass.”   

But Kristallnacht is significant also for the template it set forth for organizing seemingly spontaneous extremist violence.  First, subject a population to unremitting sole-source propaganda for a period of time to lay a groundwork of popular belief.  Second, summon that population to demonstrate its grievances.  Third, enlist a relatively few trained participants to blend in with the demonstrators and incite specific acts of violence.  Fourth, claim after the fact that the whole thing was an expression of spontaneous outrage.

We now know that the January 6 insurrection was not spontaneous either. Trump and his goons were planning for months to claim the 2020 election was rigged and to overturn the result if Joe Biden won. If it hadn’t been for a few Republican officials who resisted Trump’s high-pressure tactics in Georgia, Michigan, Arizona, and Pennsylvania, the coup might have been successful. Next time there could be a different result.

We must always be mindful that January 6 was only the beginning of the Trumpist attacks on U.S. democracy. Since Trump began running for president we’ve seen an escalation of anti-Semitism, racism, and anti-immigrant extremism as Trump gave permission for his followers to act out their prejudices. We are still in great danger of losing our democracy.

january6insurrection02232020More from the Farmer article:

A report from June 2020 entitled “COVID-19, Conspiracy, and Contagious Sedition:  A Case Study on the Militia-Sphere,” noted that “[t]he Militia-sphere’s messaging has grown increasingly extreme as the pandemic lockdowns have continued, promoting theories that the pandemic is being exaggerated to justify a police state; exploiting recent protests regarding the George Floyd incident, and transforming peaceful protests into violent chaos.”  The report also noted “how the largest online conspiracy group in the U.S., QAnon, exploits the opportunity presented by these events to draw populist support for increasingly violent and apocalyptic confrontations against the lockdown, law enforcement, and an ill-defined ‘elite.’”  

These trends culminated in the events of January 6, 2021 at the nation’s Capitol.  The groundwork of propaganda having been laid for months, both before the election and after, and the masses having been summoned to Washington to protest the election of President Biden, the appearance of a spontaneous groundswell of outrage was well established.  But as the Miller Center/NCRI’s “Assessment of the Capitol Riots” made clear, the violence associated with the protest was anything but spontaneous:  “Explicit plans to `Occupy the Capitol’ were circulating across social media suggesting that the Capitol building was an explicit target of the violent vanguard from the beginning.” 

I still can’t get over that Bulwark article that Dakinikat posted yesterday: Notes on an Authoritarian Conspiracy: Inside the Claremont Institute’s “79 Days to Inauguration” Report. If you haven’t read the whole piece yet, I hope you will do it now. These people were literally gaming out a coup to keep Trump in office. You can also check out this summary at The Daily Beast: Claremont Institute’s MAGA Fanfic Report Predicted Antifa Riots to Stop a Trump ‘Win’ in 2020. The final two paragraphs:

While the scenario is extremely ridiculous at points, The Bulwark notes that several of its authors, particularly Eastman, had Trump’s ear following his election defeat—so the report also serves as a chilling alternative history as to how things could have played out under different circumstances.

As reporter Christian Vanderbrouk notes in the Bulwark article: “Practically, the report is an instruction manual for how Trump partisans at all levels of government—aided by citizen ‘posses’ of Proud Boys and Oath Keepers—could, quite literally, round up opposition activists, kill their leaders, and install Donald Trump for a second term in office.”

One of the authors of the report was John Eastman, the so-called lawyer who wrote the memo outlining how Mike Pence could overturn the electoral college results. 

This is how much Republican violence and hate have been normalized: Yesterday a member of Congress threatened a colleague and the president with a violent video, and so far nothing has happened to him. 

The Washington Post: Rep. Paul Gosar tweets altered anime video showing him killing Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and attacking President Biden.

Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) shared an altered, animated video that depicts him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and swinging two swords at President Biden, prompting condemnation and calls for his Twitter and Instagram accounts to be suspended.

Ocasio-Cortez responded Monday night after arriving in Glasgow, Scotland, as part of a congressional delegation. Gosar, she said, will probably “face no consequences” because House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) “cheers him on with excuses.”

A Gosar staffer defended the video Monday night, dismissing claims that it glorifies violence.

“Everyone needs to relax,” Gosar’s digital director, Jessica Lycos, said in a statement.

A Twitter spokesperson said late Monday that a “public interest notice” had been placed on Gosar’s tweet because it violates the company’s policy against hateful conduct.

Gosar has long drawn criticism for his extremist views, including his spreading of conspiracy theories about the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob and the deadly white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville in 2017. In February, he appeared at an event whose organizer called for white supremacy. Gosar later distanced himself from the organizer’s remarks.

The congressman’s Sunday night post — which he shared on Twitter and Instagram — appeared to go further than his previous contentious remarks and social media posts, raising the specter of political violence in a manner similar to former president Donald Trump’s frequent allusions to armed revolution.

Read much more about this horrible situation at the WaPo. This is the atmosphere we are living in today, thanks to Trump’s influence on the Republican Party.

Trump’s followers are even attacking Republicans who fail to follow the party line in every instance. CNN: Republican congressman details threatening voicemail he received after voting for bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Republican Rep. Fred Upton on Monday shared a threatening voicemail he had received after voting for the bipartisan infrastructure bill last week.

In the voicemail, which Upton played during an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper on “AC360,” a caller told the Michigan Republican: “I hope you die. I hope everybody in your f**king family dies,” while labeling him a “f**king piece of sh*t traitor.”

Upton was one of just 13 House Republicans who voted with Democrats on Friday to pass the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill after hours of delays and debating among Democrats. The legislation, which passed the Senate in August, will deliver $550 billion in new federal investments in America’s infrastructure over five years, including roads, bridges, mass transit, rail, airports, ports and waterways.

Following the Friday vote, Upton tweeted in part, “I regret that this good, bipartisan bill became a political football in recent weeks. Our country can’t afford this partisan dysfunction any longer.” [….]

Upton’s office said the voicemail was not an isolated incident. The calls came after GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia tweeted the phone numbers of those who had voted for the bill and later called them traitors.

Reuters unmasks Trump supporters who terrified U.S. election officials.

In Arizona, a stay-at-home dad and part-time Lyft driver told the state’s chief election officer she would hang for treason. In Utah, a youth treatment center staffer warned Colorado’s election chief that he knew where she lived and watched her as she slept.

In Vermont, a man who says he works in construction told workers at the state election office and at Dominion Voting Systems that they were about to die.

“This might be a good time to put a f‑‑‑‑‑‑ pistol in your f‑‑‑‑‑‑ mouth and pull the trigger,” the man shouted at Vermont officials in a thick New England accent last December. “Your days are f‑‑‑‑‑‑ numbered.”

The three had much in common. All described themselves as patriots fighting a conspiracy that robbed Donald Trump of the 2020 election. They are regular consumers of far-right websites that embrace Trump’s stolen-election falsehoods. And none have been charged with a crime by the law enforcement agencies alerted to their threats.

They were among nine people who told Reuters in interviews that they made threats or left other hostile messages to election workers. In all, they are responsible for nearly two dozen harassing communications to six election officials in four states. Seven made threats explicit enough to put a reasonable person in fear of bodily harm or death, the U.S. federal standard for criminal prosecution, according to four legal experts who reviewed their messages at Reuters’ request.

These cases provide a unique perspective into how people with everyday jobs and lives have become radicalized to the point of terrorizing public officials. They are part of a broader campaign of fear waged against frontline workers of American democracy chronicled by Reuters this year. The news organization has documented nearly 800 intimidating messages to election officials in 12 states, including more than 100 that could warrant prosecution, according to legal experts.

The examination of the threats also highlights the paralysis of law enforcement in responding to this extraordinary assault on the nation’s electoral machinery. After Reuters reported the widespread intimidation in June, the U.S. Department of Justice launched a task force to investigate threats against election staff and said it would aggressively pursue such cases. But law enforcement agencies have made almost no arrests and won no convictions.

In many cases, they didn’t investigate. Some messages were too hard to trace, officials said. Other instances were complicated by America’s patchwork of state laws governing criminal threats, which provide varying levels of protection for free speech and make local officials in some states reluctant to prosecute such cases. Adding to the confusion, legal scholars say, the U.S. Supreme Court hasn’t formulated a clear definition of a criminal threat.

This is a long article, but it’s well worth reading the whole thing.

The hate is really out in the open now, and it seems to be getting worse. I thought it might get better once Trump was gone, but I was wrong. Please share your thoughts and links on this or any other topic in the comment thread.


Lazy Caturday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

Photo by Wu Hongli

Photo by Wu Hongli

Last night, the House finally passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill, no thanks to a group of “progressives.” CNN: These 6 House Democrats voted against the infrastructure bill. These 13 Republicans voted for it.

The House on Friday voted 228-206 to pass a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill after hours of delays and debating among Democrats, sending the bipartisan measure to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.

But while Democratic leaders managed to unify House progressives and moderates to hold a vote on the Senate-passed bill, not all members of the party ultimately supported it.

A number of progressives — who have consistently called for both the infrastructure and the separate economic package, known as the Build Back Better Act, to move together — voted “no” on the legislation.

Here are the six House Democrats who broke from their party to vote against the bill: Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York, Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan

Thirteen Republicans in the House voted with Democrats to approve the bill. They are: Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Rep. Andrew Gabarino of New York, Rep. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, Rep. John Katko of New York, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Rep. Nicole Malliotakis of New York, Rep. David McKinley of West Virginia,  Rep. Tom Reed of New York, Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, Fred Upton of Michigan, Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, Rep. Don Young of Alaska.

Also from CNN: Here’s what’s in the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

The bill calls for investing $110 billion for roads, bridges and major infrastructure projects. That’s significantly less than the $159 billion that Biden initially requested in the American Jobs Plan.

Included is $40 billion for bridge repair, replacement and rehabilitation, according to the bill text. The White House says it would be the single, largest dedicated bridge investment since the construction of the interstate highway system, which started in the 1950s.

The deal also contains $16 billion for major projects that would be too large or complex for traditional funding programs, according to the White House.

Hisakata Hiroyuki

Photo by Hisakata Hiroyuki

Some 20%, or 173,000 miles, of the nation’s highways and major roads are in poor condition, as are 45,000 bridges, according to the White House.

The investments would focus on climate change mitigation, resilience, equity and safety for all users, including cyclists and pedestrians.

Also in the package is $11 billion for transportation safety, including a program to help states and localities reduce crashes and fatalities, especially of cyclists and pedestrians, according to the White House. It would direct funding for safety efforts involving highways, trucks, and pipeline and hazardous materials.

And it contains $1 billion to reconnect communities — mainly disproportionately Black neighborhoods — that were divided by highways and other infrastructure, according to the White House. It will fund planning, design, demolition and reconstruction of street grids, parks or other infrastructure.

The bill will provide funding for public transit and rail, broadband upgrade, upgrading airports, ports and waterways, electric vehicles, improving power and water systems, and environmental remediation. Read more details at the CNN link. See also this article at The New York Times: This Is Where the States Want Billions in Infrastructure Funding Spent.

The Republicans who voted for the bill are being attacked by the Trump Party. Aaron Blake at The Washington Post: GOP erupts over its House members bailing out Biden.

Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill passed late Friday night and is headed for his signature after months of intense wrangling over the details — particularly whether it would be tied to a larger spending plan that progressives insisted upon passing alongside it. But in the end it wasn’t really those progressives who provided the key votes, but rather 13 Republicans. The final vote count was 228 to 206, meaning if no Republicans had voted for the bill, it wouldn’t have passed.

And some Republicans are predictably furious — with undersold questions about House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) future leadership of the party potentially in the offing.

“I can’t believe Republicans just gave the Democrats their socialism bill,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said….

“That 13 House Republicans provided the votes needed to pass this is absurd,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.) said.

Andrei Salokhin

By Andrei Salokhin

Others threatened before the vote to target or launch primaries against the defectors in their midst.

Vote for this infrastructure bill and I will primary the hell out of you,” Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) said shortly before the vote.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), in her typically understated fashion, warned last week that any Republican who voted for the bill would be “a traitor to our party, a traitor to their voters and a traitor to our donors.” After the vote, she accused the 13 of having voted to “pass Joe Biden’s Communist takeover of America” and tweeted the phone numbers to their congressional offices (while for some reason only listing 12 of the 13)….

“That 13 House Republicans provided the votes needed to pass this is absurd,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.) said.

Others threatened before the vote to target or launch primaries against the defectors in their midst.

Vote for this infrastructure bill and I will primary the hell out of you,” Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) said shortly before the vote.

This is pretty interesting. I wonder if the DC press will begin writing about Republicans in disarray? Just kidding.

Friday’s GOP defections were even more significant than during the last Trump impeachment, when 10 Republicans voted to impeach the president — a historically high number. And the fact that on Friday they provided the votes necessary for passage makes this even more fraught.

Photo by Willard Culver

Photo by Willard Culver

They were also more significant than many, including McCarthy, suggested they might be. While McCarthy previously kept his powder dry on whipping against the bill, he ultimately pushed for his members to vote against it. As recently as last week, McCarthy said, “I don’t expect few, if any, to vote for it, if it comes to the floor today.” In another interview, he was asked about the infrastructure bill and said, “It will fail.”

Circumstances change, but the defections from McCarthy’s party line were significant for the modern era. They also notably included Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.), who had been made part of the team led by Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) just earlier this year — the same whipping operation that failed Friday.

Malliotakis comes from a region which stood to benefit more than others from the bill and accounted for many of the GOP yes votes; 5 of the 13 came from New York and New Jersey. But that one in particular has to sting. We knew at least a few Republicans would vote yes and others were seemingly freed up to vote for a bill once it was headed for passage. But 10 Republicans voted for the bill rather quickly, and the eventual total number of defections gave the bill more than just a veneer of bipartisanship (especially when combined with the Senate vote).

Check out this headline at The National Review: Disgraceful House Republicans Rescue Biden’s Flailing Agenda.

One of the Republicans who voted yes has issued a warning for the future. CNN: Retiring GOP lawmaker warns Trump will try to steal the next election.

Retiring Rep. Anthony Gonzalez has a warning for his fellow Republicans: former President Donald Trump will try to steal the next election.

Gonzalez was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump in the wake of the January 6 attack on the Capitol. In the face of relentless attacks and threats directed toward him and his family afterward, the Ohio Republican chose to retire from Congress at the end of his term and avoid facing off with a Trump-backed primary challenger next year.

With Trump appearing to prepare for another presidential run in 2024, Gonzalez told CNN he will try to stop Trump from running the same 2020 playbook to overturn another election, but he warned that Trump could have more help next time from those in charge of running — and certifying — elections.

“January 6 was an unconstitutional attempt led by the President of the United States to overturn an American election and reinstall himself in power illegitimately. That’s fallen nation territory, that’s third world country territory. My family left Cuba to avoid that fate. I will not let it happen here,” Gonzalez said.

“I think it’s all pushing towards one of two outcomes: He either wins legitimately, which he may do, or if he loses again, you just try to steal it,” he added.

Hisakata Hiroyuki2

Photo by Hisakata Hiroyuki2

The quotes are from CNN’s excellent special “Trumping Democracy: An American Coup,”  If you didn’t watch it last night, I hope you will see it next time it airs. More Gonzalez quotes:

Gonzalez pointed to election officials like Gates as a key reason Trump was unsuccessful in his attempts to subvert the election result in 2020.

“The institutions don’t hold themselves,” he said. “In the moments of truth, you need the right people to pass the most difficult tests. We had just enough people on January 6 pass the test. We have to make sure we have equal number of people to continue to pass the test going forward.”

But Gonzalez and other Republicans fear the officials who stopped Trump in 2020 may be replaced by those “more beholden to him than their oath,” thanks to the former President’s revenge campaign against those who opposed his election lies.

Trump has endorsed Republicans who have embraced his lies about the election in key battleground states for normally low-key secretary of state races, seeking to replace officials who rebuffed his pressure campaign such as Georgia Republican Brad Raffensperger.

“It looks to me that he has evaluated what went wrong on January 6: Why is it that he wasn’t able to steal the election? Who stood in his way?” Gonzalez said. “And he’s going methodically state by state at races from, you know, state Senate races all the way down to county commissioner races trying to get the people who — the Republicans, the RINOs, in his words — who stopped this, who stopped him from stealing the election.”

In other news, those professors who were ordered not to testify in a voting rights case have filed a lawsuit. 

Three professors filed a lawsuit against the University of Florida on Friday, claiming school officials violated their right to free speech by trying to prevent them from offering testimony in a voting rights case.

The case further inflames a heated debate over academic freedom, one that has brought national attention and criticism to the state flagship university.

It was filed on the same day school officials reversed course: After a week of controversy and pushback from faculty, alumni and academics across the country, the University of Florida on Friday said the three political science professors should not be barred from testifying in a voting rights lawsuit against the administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).

1d353a1445360897ac1bd7b9a7b19be3The complaint by the professors contends the university is discriminating against them based on viewpoints they wish to express, and by trying to prevent them from offering expert testimony on issues of overwhelming public importance, UF violated their First Amendment rights.

Seeking to restrict the professors from testifying is contrary to UF’s stated mission as a public research institution — “to share the benefits of its research and knowledge for the public good,” and to the principles of academic freedom and free speech, the complaint says.

The lawsuit asks the court to declare unlawful the policy of “stifling faculty speech against the State.”

Tragedy struck at a music festival in Houston last night. USA Today:  At least 8 dead, ‘scores’ more injured at concert during Astroworld Festival in Texas, officials say.

Houston authorities are investigating what officials described as a crowd surge that killed at least eight people and injured “scores” of others during the annual Astroworld music festival in Houston while rapper Travis Scott performed.

Officials declared a “mass casualty incident” at 9:38 p.m. Friday local time during the festival at NRG Park, where an estimated 50,000 people were in attendance, Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña told reporters during an overnight news briefing.

“The crowd began to compress toward the front of the stage, and that caused some panic, and it started causing some injuries, said Peña. “People began to fall out, become unconscious, and it created additional panic.”

As first responders rushed to the scene, 17 people were transported to local hospitals, including 11 who were in cardiac arrest, the fire chief said. There were scores of other injuries, he added.

Peña said officials did not yet know the cause of death for the eight victims. It was not immediately clear whether they were among those transported to hospitals.

Many people were also treated at the scene, where a field hospital had been set up. About 300 people were examined at that site throughout the day, said Peña.

Astroworld promoters had medical personnel and an emergency transport component at the festival, but “they were quickly overwhelmed” as the injury count mounted at “really a chaotic event,” the fire chief said.

Read more at the link.

That’s all I have for you today. What stories are you following?


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

Washington Crossing the Delaware, 1975

Peter Saul, Washington Crossing the Delaware, 1975

The mainstream media, led by The New York Times, is writing the Democrat’s obituary after Terry McAuliffe’s loss in the Virginia gubernatorial race, but I don’t feel like writing about that. I have no idea whether the loss will affect the 2022 midterms. I don’t really want to think about it, except that I hope the Democrats will finally do something about the filibuster. There has been some talk of changing Senate rules for voting rights legislation, after Republicans once again blocked debate on the Voting Rights Act.

The New York Times: Republicans Block a Second Voting Rights Bill in the Senate.

Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked legislation to restore parts of the landmark Voting Rights Act weakened by Supreme Court rulings, making it the second major voting bill to be derailed by a G.O.P. filibuster in the past two weeks.

Despite receiving majority support, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, named for the civil rights activist and congressman who died last year, fell nine votes short of the 60 required to advance over Republican opposition.

In the aftermath of the defeat, Senate Democrats said they would intensify internal discussions about altering filibuster rules or making other changes to allow them to move forward on voting rights legislation despite deep resistance by Republicans, who have now thwarted four efforts to take up such measures.

“Just because Republicans will not join us doesn’t mean Democrats will stop fighting,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, after the vote. “We will continue to fight for voting rights and find an alternative path forward.”

Yesterday the Federal Reserve announced plans to deal with inflation. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been affected by the rising food prices. Even though we’re getting the biggest Social Security increase in a very long time, it isn’t going to be enough. The New York Times: Fed Takes First Step Toward End of Pandemic Measures.

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday took its first step toward withdrawing support for the American economy, saying that it would begin to wind down a stimulus program that’s been in place since early in the pandemic as the economy heals and prices climb at an uncomfortably rapid pace.

Peter Saul’s Columbus Discovers America, 1992-1995, points the way to the painter’s mature work, distinguished by provocative subject matter and a cartoon-based style.

Peter Saul’s Columbus Discovers America, 1992-1995, points the way to the painter’s mature work, distinguished by provocative subject matter and a cartoon-based style.

Central bank policymakers struck a slightly more wary tone about inflation, which has jumped this year amid booming consumer demand for goods and supply snarls. While officials still expect quick cost increases to fade, how quickly that will happen is unclear.

Fed officials want to be prepared for any outcome at a time when the economy’s trajectory is marked by grave uncertainty. They are not sure when prices will begin to calm down, to what extent the labor market will recover the millions of jobs still missing after last year’s economic slump, or when they will begin to raise interest rates — which remain at rock-bottom to keep borrowing and spending cheap and easy.

So the central bank’s decision to dial back its other policy tool, large-scale bond purchases that keep money flowing through financial markets, was meant to give the Fed flexibility it might need to react to a shifting situation. Officials on Wednesday laid out a plan to slow their $120 billion in monthly Treasury bond and mortgage-backed security purchases by $15 billion a month starting in November. The purchases can lower long term interest rates and prod investors into investments that would spur growth.

Assuming that pace holds, the bond buying would stop altogether around the time of the central bank’s meeting next June — potentially putting the Fed in a position to lift interest rates by the middle of next year.

John Durham’s “investigation” into the origins of the FBI/DOJ investigation of Trump’s ties to Russia is beginning to look like a real witch hunt. The New York Times: Authorities Arrest Analyst Who Contributed to Steele Dossier.

Federal authorities on Thursday arrested an analyst who in 2016 gathered leads about possible links between Donald J. Trump and Russia for what turned out to be Democratic-funded opposition research, according to people familiar with the matter.

The arrest of the analyst, Igor Danchenko, is part of the special counsel inquiry led by John H. Durham, who was appointed by the Trump administration to scrutinize the Russia investigation for any wrongdoing, the people said.

Mr. Danchenko, was the primary researcher of the so-called Steele dossier, a compendium of rumors and unproven assertions suggesting that Mr. Trump and his 2016 campaign were compromised by and conspiring with Russian intelligence officials in Moscow’s covert operation to help him defeat Hillary Clinton.

The people familiar with the matter spoke on condition of anonymity because the indictment of Mr. Danchenko had yet to be unsealed. A spokesman for Mr. Durham did not respond to a request for comment.

Peter Saul, Quack-Quack, Trump, 2017

Peter Saul, Quack-Quack, Trump, 2017

So this information was leaked without any indication of what the basis of the arrest was. What laws did  Danchenko break? The last Durham arrest was hinky too.

The charges against Mr. Danchenko follow Mr. Durham’s indictment in September of a cybersecurity lawyer, Michael Sussmann, which accused him of lying to the F.B.I. about who he was working for when he brought concerns about possible Trump-Russia links to the bureau in September 2016.

Mr. Sussmann, who then also worked for Perkins Coie, was relaying concerns developed by data scientists about odd internet logs they said suggested the possibility of a covert communications channel between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank, a Kremlin-linked financial institution. He has denied lying to the F.B.I. about who he was working for.

Today is the hearing about whether Trump has any right to claim executive privilege over documents related to the January 6 insurrection. CNN: High-stakes hearing Thursday in Trump effort to block release of presidential documents.

The power Donald Trump holds as a former president will be put to the test on Thursday, as a federal judge is set to hear arguments on whether Trump can keep secret records from his White House about his attempt to overturn the 2020 election.

Trump has asked the DC District Court to block the National Archives from giving more than 700 pages of documents to the House Select Committee investigating January 6. He’s claimed the House’s investigation is illegitimate, and that his role as a former President should give him control over reviewing and deciding upon access to the records.

The hearing may be the pivotal moment in a potentially historic legal fight about the authority of a former president, the House’s investigative power and the reach of executive privilege….

In the short term, the case also may have huge implications for the bipartisan House investigation, which is pushing for records and witnesses before the midterm elections take place next year. Without access to the documents, the House could be hampered significantly in its fact-finding.

In court, the House has cast its investigation as one of its most critical tasks in history. “In 2021, for the first time since the Civil War, the Nation did not experience a peaceful transfer of power,” lawyers for the House wrote over the weekend. “A peaceful transfer of power from one President to another is crucial to the continuation of our democratic government. It is difficult to imagine a more critical subject for Congressional investigation, and Mr. Trump’s arguments cannot overcome that pressing legislative need.

Hitler's Bunker, Peter Saul

Hitler’s Bunker, Peter Saul

This happened yesterday in the trial of the Charlottesville rally organizers. Buzzfeed News: A Renowned Holocaust Historian Testified That Charlottesville Rally Organizers’ Messages Were A “Call To Arms”

Neo-Nazis Christopher Cantwell and Matthew Heimbach on Wednesday seemed almost to forget for a moment that they were in a court of law and defendants in a civil case that could potentially bankrupt them and take down the white nationalist groups with which they’re associated.

“What’s your favorite Holocaust joke?” Cantwell, who is representing himself in court, asked Heimbach, who was called to the stand by the plaintiffs as a witness, during cross-examination….

The strategy behind Cantwell’s line of questioning wasn’t immediately clear, and attorneys for the plaintiffs interjected before any jokes were uttered. But Cantwell, who had previously gone on bizarre courtroom tangents, and Heimbach spent nearly an hour talking about their adoration for Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler, the dictator’s book Mein Kampf, and their belief that the Holocaust was a hoax.

Hitler, Heimbach testified, “did nothing wrong” in murdering some 6 million Jews.

The exchange between the two neo-Nazis contrasted sharply with the testimony by Deborah Lipstadt, an acclaimed Holocaust scholar and professor of modern Jewish history at Emory University.